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Vespasian, in the mean time, advanced to Jota pata; a number of Jews having fled thither for security; it being a place fortified both by nature and art. It was situated upon a rock, encompassed with deep valleys of perpendicular descent, so that a person could scarce look down to the bottom without being giddy. There was only one access to it, which opened on a declining mountain, on the north side; the rest of the city was encompassed with high hills, so that it could not be seen till you came very near it. There was no regular road to it, which obliged Vespasian to send pioneers forward to plain the way; without which it was impossible to pass with an army, the ground being filled with ragged stones; this was effected in four days.
The next day, Josephus privately entered the city, coming thither from Tiberias, to encourage the people. A deserter gave information of this to Vespasian, and advised him to hasten thither; for, if he could take Josephus, all Judea would soon submit. Vespasian considered it as an interference of Pro
idence, that this man should shut himself up in a fortified town. He, therefore, immediately dispatched a thousand horse, with two prudent and valiant commanders, to invest the city on all sides, to prevent Josephus from escaping.
The day after, he followed with his whole army ; and, about noon, came to Jotapata, leading his troops to the north side; where they pitched their tents, opposite the city, in full view of their enemies. The sight of the Roman army so terrified the inhabitants, that none durst stir out of the city. The Romans rested that day, only securing the gates
by two squadrons of horse, and one of foot, which were placed to intercept all the passages, so that none could go out of the city. This threw the Jews into desperation, and they determined valiantly to defend themselves.
The next day, the Romans began the battery; when Josephus made a sally with all his troops, assaulting them with such fury, that he drove them from the walls. The fight was obstinate, and continued all day. The Romans had many wounded, but only thirteen slain: the Jews had seventeen slain, and six hundred wounded. They continued fighting in this manner for five days successively. Vespasian then called a council of war, in which it was determined to combat the difficulties arising from the situation of the place, and the obstinacy of the Jews, by immediately commencing a hot siege. Vespasian ordered a mount to be raised in that place where the city was easiest to enter. But here they were much annoyed by the Jews, who came out in companies, and pulled down the sheds which defended the workmen : they then assaulted them and destroyed their works. Vespasian, at length, prevented these excursions of the enemy, and nearly finished the mount and towers.
Josephus, on the other hand, was no less careful for the defence of the town. He assembled the workmen together, and ordered them to build a wall higher than the works of the Romans; to which they at first objected, alledging the annoyance they received from the darts of the enemy. To remove this difficulty, Josephus devised a method to defend
them. He fixed stakes in the ground, and fastened to them hides of oxen newly slain, which fully answered his expectations; so that labouring night and day, they raised the wall twenty cubits high, erecting many towers upon it, and thus made it a
The Romans, who thought themselves sure of the town, were, by this device, quite disconcerted, and the courage of the besieged was proportionably animated : for they made assaults upon the Romans daily, plundering them of all that lay in their way; and what they could not carry off they set on fire. The Romans, from a high hill, perceived the Jews come to a certain place to' receive water by measure; which made Vespasian conclude, that when their water was expended they must yield; he therefore gave
orders to desist from fighting, as he intended to reduce them by famine, ordering the city to be blocked
that none might come out. The besieged had plenty of provisions, but stood in great need of water, for there was not a fountain in the city, and they had but little rain in summer; so that the inhabitants were soon likely to be reduced to great distress. Josephus, having information that the Romans had gained a knowledge of their distress, ordered a great many garments to be dipped in water, and hung over the wall, that the water might run on every side. At this sight the Romans were much surprised; they could not suppose the Jews to be so improvident as to waste their water, if they were in want of it for drink; Vespasian therefore gave up the idea of famishing them. This was just what the Jews wanted, as they preferred the risk of perishing by the sword, to that of dying with thirst.
The Romans now pressed the siege with the utmost vigour. Upon which Josephus, perceiving the city could not hold out long, consulted with his officers how he might escape; but the people discovered his design, and focked around him, urging him to stay with them. Josephus told them, that in wishing to depart, he sought their welfare; for if he staid in the city, he could be of little service to them; but if abroad, he could raise troops in Galilee, and then come against their enemies, and force them to raise the siege: but while he continued in the city, the Romans would persist in their attempts against it, in hopes of taking him. These arguments, however, had no effect with the people, who prostrated themselves before him; begging him to defend them, and to stand or fall with them. Josephus, partly moved by compassion, and partly fearing they would compel him to stay, yielded to their intreaties. Upon which, they all, with one consent, determined to sell their lives as dear as possible; so that the siege became more desperate than ever, as you will see in my next. I remain
MY DEAR GEORGE,
THERE is no saying what men, who consider their lives as lost, and yet are determined to make the enemy buy them dear, will not effect. They will venture upon the most daring exploits; and often succeed, beyond all human probability, in defeating cool, deliberate, and wise councils. Josephus was in this situation. He did not now study the tactics of war, but made most furious sallies. In the first onset he killed the watchmen, and advanced with his men as far as the enemy's tents; destroying some, and burning others. These depredations were continued for several days and nights.
Vespasian, perceiving the injury that his soldiers sustained from these desperate attacks, commanded them to leave the assault, as it was in vain to fight with those who were resolved to die. Seeing himself, as it were, besieged, from the sallies and excursions of the Jews, he at length determined, as he had almost raised the ramparts as high as the walls of the city, to batter them with a ram. But, that you may the better understand the nature of this engine, I will give you a description of it.
The battering ram was a large beam, like the mast of a ship; the end of which was armed with strong massy iron, in the form of a ram's head; from whence it takes its name, butting the walls in the